An article was published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine by Eric Courchesne’s group, investigating what is essentially evidence of dysplasia (underdevelopment due to prolonged progenitor proliferation at the expense of the mature cells) in the neocortex of autistics. It is titled, “Patches of Disorganization in the Neocortex of Autism“. Even though the media is beginning to play this up as a “great discovery”, e.g., NIMH’s coverage on the piece and SFARI’s likely soon to come, I’d like to take the opportunity to point out that this is by far not the first work to address this issue. Here are some of the main works which have already reported similar (and more thoroughly investigated) findings:
- Neuropathology of Infantile Autism (1998) by Baumann & Kemper
- The Neuropathology of Autism: Defects of Neurogenesis and Neuronal Migration, and Dysplastic Changes (2010) by Wegiel et al.
- Focal Cortical Dysplasias in Autism Spectrum Disorders (2013) by Casanova et al.
Sadly, with the exception of the Wegiel publication, Courchesne’s group fails to acknowledge these earlier publications, although it’s excruciatingly difficult to believe they were not aware of them considering Courchesne actually works with a former colleague of Dr. Casanova’s, and Baumann and Kemper are world renowned for their studies on neuropathology in autism. But, hey, they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? It is, however, the decent thing to do to acknowledge those whose work has come before and inspired our own. But deliberate competition exists in all arenas, research included, so I’m sure this may not be the first example of one-up-manship.
Anyways, niggling human frailties aside, Dr. Casanova, an expert in neuropathology and postmortem investigation, has reviewed the recent publication and has also been interviewed on the subject by SFARI, so please read his synopsis here, as he’s done it far more justice than I could attempt to do.